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CHE – Alberto Iglesias

December 12, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara led a fascinating life: born in Argentina, he first became politically active after witnessing first-hand the social injustices and abject poverty suffered by his countrymen while travelling around South America on a motorbike. He was later instrumental in overthrowing Fulgencio Batista and installing Fidel Castro as president of Cuba, and became a respected author, politician and philosopher, before eventually returning to his radical roots, instigating coups in other countries, prior to being eventually captured and executed in Bolivia in 1967.

Directed Steven Soderbergh’s film about his life stars Benicio Del Toro as Guevara, and features Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Matt Damon in supporting roles. The four hour film has been split into two parts – ‘The Argentine’ and ‘Guerilla’ – but the score, by Alberto Iglesias, contains music from both films, and is released simply as ‘Che’. Now, this is going to make me sound like a complete philistine, but I really quite disliked this score. One part of me understands how Iglesias’s quiet, intricate writing and sparse, intelligent orchestrations and arrangements depict Guevara’s life and intellect superbly. Another part of me understands and appreciates the correct comparisons that have been made with Jerry Goldsmith’s more understated writing from the early part of his career. However, the largest part of me was completely and utterly bored by the entire experience.

Iglesias’s score is basically made up of three kinds of music – rumbling electronic and ethnic instrumental dissonance (“Landscape”, “Ambush”), tension-filled cues with a more orchestral sound (“Sierra Maestra”, “Military Skills”), and solemn acoustic guitar textures (“Luces y Sombras”, “Doctor Guevara”). Only the slightly Morricone-ish “Across Mount Turquino”, the more strident and dramatic “March” and “Camino a la Habana”, and the lusher finale, “La Higuera – October 9 1967” leave any kind of lasting impression; the rest completely passed me by.

I feel very frustrated by this, because there is clearly a great deal of intelligence and great craftsmanship on display here, and I feel like I’m missing out on it by reacting to it in the way I have. I wish wholeheartedly that Che had made the same impression on me that it clearly has on others, but I have tried over a dozen times to get into this score, only to find my mind continually wandering to other things half way through, such was the score’s lack of a tangible element that captured my attention. So, please take my low rating with a pinch of salt, as my opinion is clearly the minority.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Ese Hombre Es El Che Guevara (2:53)
  • Ten Years Earlier – December 1 1956 (2:00)
  • Sierra Maestra (4:59)
  • Landscape (1:35)
  • I Want To Take The Revolution To Latin America (2:08)
  • New York – December 1964 (1:02)
  • Across Mount Turquino (2:51)
  • March (2:35)
  • Some Craziness is Good (3:05)
  • Luces y Sombras (2:15)
  • Ambush (3:44)
  • Political Skills (2:26)
  • Military Skills (1:42)
  • Camino a la Habana (2:02)
  • Nancahuazu Canyon – March 23 1967 (2:58)
  • Doctor Guevara (1:44)
  • Santa Clara (2:00)
  • Patria O Muerte (3:54)
  • La Higuera – October 9 1967 (5:36)
  • Balderrama (performed by Mercedes Sosa) (3:55)
  • Fusil Contra Fusil (performed by Silvio Rodriguez) (2:55)

Running Time: 58 minutes 25 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6929 (2008)

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